Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A beautiful Derby morning

I always thought if I saw the Derby contenders working out beforehand, I'd have a better idea of how to handicap. That's the idea, right? You see the horses who are beginning to really dapple out, the ones who are shaping up in peak condition, and generally what they look like in person. Well, this all has really just ended up confusing me more. I never considered horses like Mr. Hot Stuff, or even General Quarters seriously (even though he's got such a heartwarming story), but after seeing them today, my exotics are opening up.

Steve Haskin wrote an article yesterday about how General Quaters has this undefinable "look" about him, and after the sky opened up today and shed some light on the situation, I got the same idea. Yesterday I thought GQ looked extremely focused in his work. He wasn't gawking at the spectators or strutting like Mr. Hot Stuff today; but there is a quiet confidence about him that's hard to deny. Is GQ this year's Giacomo? I know word around Louisville says that idea has been summed up about Chocolate Candy, but from the brief look I got at Candy today, I wasn't as impressed as everyone else. Of course, he wasn't doing anything but a jog.

The post position draw was closed to the public this year, so we had to watch it from the Churchill Downs teleprompter... on silent. Thanks, CDI. Somehow, lipreading commentary of post position draws isn't very titillating. But we got the idea.

It was during this time, on the rolling news ticker at the bottom of the screen, that we learned Win Willy had been taken out of contention at the last possible moment because of a hairline fracture in his left foreleg. I wasn't a big fan of Willy since he upset my Old boy in the Rebel, but at least he had some credentials to him. More than say, half of the new field. I mean, come on... Atomic Rain? Mine that Bird? Flying Private? Nowhere to Hide? These are all just speedbumps to get in the way of the more talented horses. I wonder if the track comes up wet, which there is a chance of with this week's showers, if some of these horses will scratch? I guess since it's the Derby, and everyone wants a piece of that $2 million purse, that idea is the longest shot of the day.

The highlight of the day was finally seeing Zenyatta grace the Churchill track. After watching a star-filled track of joggers, including Friesan Fire with Larry Jones in the irons, Chocolate Candy, Pioneerof the Nile, Musket Man, Papa Clem, Mr. Hot Stuff, General Quarters, Mine that Bird, Justwhistledixie, and Join in the Dance, the dark bay mare took a long jog and showed the young 'uns what a race horse looked like. The funny thing was how long she gawked at the spectators in the grandstands as she took her one pass by. She looked phenomenal, with a dappled coat, long, effortless strides, and that curious expression.
I longed for her to come back around, but she was walked back to the barn after her stroll over the sealed track. She came out around 9:15am, when the workouts were nearly all over with. I was so happy to have the sun out to take the shots; I'm worried what the rest of the week will bring us for weather. I'm also really curious as to what her connections will do if the track should come up sloppy for Friday, which it's calling for. She's never run over a wet track. I think, if she's to be truly tested, Zenyatta needs to face conditions she's not accustomed to add a new dimension to her greatness.

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